Program aims to promote vim and vigor in area residents

Men’s Fitness magazine ranked Dallas the third most obese city in the nation this year, down six rankings from its place as ninth in 2003. At that rate, we’re pretty much guaranteed to hit the No. 1 spot in the next couple of years.

Rankings like this helped spur the Dallas Northeast Chamber of Commerce and Doctors Hospital to start the Healthier Northeast Dallas Initiative, a program designed to enhance the health status of residents in our area.

Modeled after a similar national plan announced by President Bush, the program touches on four basic keys to creating a healthy lifestyle, taking into account that health is about much more than weight. The touchstones are:

• Be physically active everyday, for at least 30 minutes.

• Follow a nutritious diet.

• Obtain preventive screenings — such as blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol — regularly.

• And make healthy choices, such as staying smoke- and drug-free and wearing a seat belt.

Though the local program was begun a few months ago, it was Doctors Hospital that led the charge in mid-January to make sure we’re all aware of the healthier alternatives out there. On Jan. 15, the hospital held an all-day health fair for its employees, providing health screenings, information booths and opportunities for its workers to sign up for the program online and gain access to the hospital’s wellness center.

The response was great, says Steve LaGrone, associate administrator at Doctors. About 200 of the participants committed themselves to a healthier lifestyle by signing up at the program’s Web site. About the same number of people also signed up to use the wellness center.

“We wanted to set the example,” LaGrone says. “As major sponsors, we want to take the same program we did here to other businesses in the northeast Dallas area.”

LaGrone says that any local business, no matter the size, is encouraged to contact the hospital and arrange a health fair of its own.

“We want to reach out into the local business community and let them know that we’d love to come to their site and do a health fair.”

Fairs for larger companies will be done onsite, while smaller company requests probably will be combined, LaGrone says, and the employees asked to attend a fair at the hospital.

Additionally, neighborhood individuals not associated with a participating business can sign up at the Healthier Northeast Dallas Initiative website,, where more information about each of the program’s four key principles can also be found.

Participation for both businesses and individuals is free.

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